CSC 121
Computers and Scientific Thinking
David Reed
Creighton University
Chapter 9
Abstraction and User-Defined Functions
abstraction is the process of ignoring minutiae and focusing on the big picture
in modern life, we are constantly confronted with complexity
we don't necessarily know how it works, but we know how to use it
e.g., how does a TV work? a car? a computer?
we survive in the face of complexity by abstracting away details
to use a TV/car/computer, it's not important to understand the inner workings
we ignore unimportant details and focus on those features relevant to using it
e.g., TV has power switch, volume control, channel changer, …
JavaScript functions (like Math.sqrt) provide computational abstraction
a function encapsulates some computation & hides the details from the user
the user only needs to know how to call the function, not how it works
Chapter 7 introduced simple user-defined functions
could encapsulate the statements associated with a button, call the function as needed
General Function Form
to write general-purpose functions, we can extend definitions to include:
1) parameters, 2) local variables, and 3) return statements
parameters are variables that correspond to the function’s inputs (if any)
local variables are temporary variables that are limited to that function only
parameters appear in the parentheses, separated by commas
if require some temporary storage in performing calculations, then declare local variables
using the keyword var, separated by commas
a local variable exists only while the function executes, so no potential conflicts with
other functions
a return statement is a statement that specifies an output value
consists of the keyword return followed by a variable or expression
Functions with Inputs
most of the predefined function we have considered expect at least on input
e.g., Math.sqrt takes a number as input, and returns its square root as output
Math.sqrt(9)  3
e.g., Math.max takes two numbers as inputs, and returns the maximum as output
Math.max(7, 3)  7
in English, the word parameter refers to some aspect of a system that can be
varied in order to control its behavior
in JavaScript, a parameter is a variable (declared inside the function's parentheses)
whose value is automatically initialized to the corresponding input value when the
function is called
parameters allow the same function to perform different (but related) tasks when
called with different input values
the call ChangeImage("happy.gif") will
assign the input "happy.gif" to the
parameter imgSource, resulting in the
image being assigned to that file
the call ChangeImage("sad.gif") will
assign the input "sad.gif" to the
parameter imgSource, resulting in the
image being assigned to that file
Newpics Page
in newpics.html, each button performs a similar task - changing the image file
the single ChangeImage function suffices for each (using different inputs)
Newmac Page
similarly, we
could redefine
oldmac.html from
Chapter 5
has 2 inputs:
the animal and
sound for that
this function can
be used to display
any verse, given
the animal and
Multiple Inputs
if a function has more than one input,
parameters in the function definition are separated by commas
input values in the function call are separated by commas
values are matched to parameters by order
1st input value in the function call is assigned to the 1st parameter in the function
2nd input value in the function call is assigned to the 2nd parameter in the function
function OldMacVerse(animal, sound)
// Assumes: animal and sound are strings
// Results: displays corresponding Old MacDonald verse
. . .
---------------------------------------------------------OldMacVerse("cow", "moo");
OldMacVerse("moo", "cow");
Parameters and Locals
parameters play an important role in functions
they facilitate the creation of generalized computations
i.e., the function defines a formula, but certain values within the formula can
differ each time the function is called
technically, a parameter is a local variable, meaning it exists only inside its
particular function
when the function is called, memory cells are allocated for the parameters and
each input from the call is assigned to its corresponding parameter
once a parameter has been assigned a value, you can refer to that parameter
within the function just as you would any other variable
when the function terminates, the parameters “go away,” and their associated
memory cells are freed
by default, variables other than parameters are considered global, meaning
they exist and can be accessed by JavaScript code anywhere in the page
note: it is possible to use the same name to refer to a local variable and a global
within the function, the local variable is accessible
outside that function, the global variable is accessible
Local vs. Global
here, the variable names
animal and sound are
used for parameters in the
function definition
(local variables)
used for variables in the
(global variables)
we can think of these as
completely separate
variables, identifiable via a
animalOldMacVerse and
soundOldMacVerse are
used in the function
animalBODY and
soundBODY are used in
the BODY
Declaring Local Variables
we have seen that variables are useful for storing intermediate steps in a
complex computation
within a user-defined function, the programmer is free to create new variables
and use them in specifying the function’s computation
however, by default, new variables used in a function are global
but what if the same variable name is already used elsewhere?
to avoid name conflicts, the programmer should declare temporary variables
to be local
a variable declaration is a statement that lists all local variables to be used in a
function (usually the first statement in a function)
general form:
var LOCAL_1, LOCAL_2, . . ., LOCAL_n;
function IncomeTax(income, itemized)
// Assumes: income >= 0, itemized >= 0
// Results: displays flat tax (13%) due after deductions
var deduction, taxableIncome, totalTax;
deduction = Math.max(itemized, 4150);
taxableIncome = Math.max(income - deduction, 0);
totalTax = 0.13*taxableIncome
alert("You owe $" + totalTax);
since these variables are
declared as local, they will
not affect (or be affected
by) any variables with the
same names elsewhere in
the page
Functions with Return
displaying results using document.write or alert is OK for some functions
for full generality, we need to be able to return an output value, which can then be
used in other computations
number = Math.sqrt(9);
amountOwed = IncomeTax(38000, 6500);
a return statement can be added to a function to specify its output value
when the return statement is reached, the variable or expression is evaluated and
its value is returned as the function's output
general form: return OUTPUT_VALUE;
function IncomeTax(income, itemized)
// Assumes: income >= 0, itemized >= 0
// Returns: flat tax (13%) due after deductions
var deduction, taxableIncome, totalTax;
deduction = Math.max(itemized, 4150);
taxableIncome = Math.max(income - deduction, 0);
totalTax = 0.13*taxableIncome
since this function returns the
value, it can be used in other
computations, e.g., calculate
amount owed in 4 payments:
payment =
IncomeTax(38000, 6500)/4;
return totalTax;
Newconvert Page
if the same computation must
be done repeatedly, a function
can greatly simplify the page
here, FahrToCelsius is called
twice to convert two different
Designing Functions
functions do not add any computational power to the language
a function definition simply encapsulates other statements
still, the capacity to define and use functions is key to solving complex
problems, as well as to developing reusable code
encapsulating repetitive tasks can shorten and simplify code
functions provide units of computational abstraction – user can ignore details
functions are self-contained, so can easily be reused in different applications
when is it worthwhile to define a function?
if a particular computation is complex—meaning that it requires extra variables
and/or multiple lines to define
if you have to perform a particular computation repeatedly within a page
when defining a function, you must identify
the inputs
the computation to be performed using those inputs
the output
Design Example
consider the task of designing an online Magic 8-ball (Mattell, Inc.)
must be able to ask a yes/no type question
receive an answer (presumably, at random)
could use:
 a text area for entering the
question (which could be
several lines long)
 a text box for displaying the
answer (which should be
 a button for initiating the
action – which involves calling
a function to process the
question, select an answer,
and display it in the text box
general-purpose functions can be grouped together in a library
a library is a text file that contains one or more function definitions
once the functions are defined in the library, that library can be loaded into
pages as needed
e.g., the random.js library contains useful functions for generating random
to load a library of functions in a page, use a special pair of SCRIPT tags
<script type="text/javascript" src="URL_OR_LOCAL_FILENAME">
Using random.js
in the page below, the random.js library is accessed via the Web
you can download the file and store it on your own machine
then, simply specify the file name in the SRC attribute (the default is that the file
is in the same folder as the Web page that includes it)
note: the RandomOneOf function
from random.js would similarly
be useful for the Magic 8-ball
page (in selecting possible
answers at random)
Errors to Avoid
When beginning programmers attempt to load a JavaScript code library,
errors of two types commonly occur:
if the SCRIPT tags are malformed or the name/address of the library is
incorrect, the library will fail to load
this will not cause an error in itself, but any subsequent attempt to call a function
from the library will produce
“Error: Object Expected” (using Internet Explorer)
“Error: XXX is not a function” (using Firefox), where XXX is the entered name
when you use the SRC attribute in a pair of SCRIPT tags to load a code
library, you cannot place additional JavaScript code between the tags
think of the SRC attribute as causing the contents of the library to be inserted
between the tags, overwriting any other code that was erroneously placed there
<script type="text/javascript" src="FILENAME">
if you want additional JavaScript code or another library, you must use another
pair of SCRIPT tags

ppt - Dave Reed